This year, as part of a course project in McMaster’s Special Topics in GIS class, I completed and submitted an Esri story map journal to the Esri Global Content Challenge. When my professor Pat DeLuca announced that our class would be competing in this competition is was I was excited to design my own story map journal. Having only played around with story map journals briefly before this, I was really looking forward to fully immersing myself in the art of story map crafting.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with story maps and story map journals, a story map is simply a series of interactive or fixed maps with supporting text that tell a story about any topic you wish. That being said, this competition was extremely open ended.  The only real constraints were that the story maps needed to utilize layers from Esri’s Living Atlas, focus on one of the three themes: Land, Ocean, and Population, and finally it needed to be built using a story map journal template.

I found a helpful place to start this competition was to begin by reading some of the GeoNet blogs on story maps and watching some of Esri’s youtube videos on effective story map journals. Next I browsed through the hundreds of layers of data in the living atlas and tried to think of a multi-faceted story I could tell.

Although my educational background is in Earth and Environmental sciences, having grown up on a dairy farm I chose to write about a topic closer to home: Agriculture. The development and evolution of agriculture has probably had the greatest impact on the earth compared to any other human phenomena. Specifically, water consumption by agriculture is of interest to me because it has implications on the global water cycles, pollution of fresh water resources, and the health of natural habitat.

Once I had this idea I hashed out a narrative of this story with examples from around the world and began to craft my maps. Aside from thinking of an idea, building the maps was the most time intensive step in the creation of my map journal. This process was slow going, mostly because I had to familiarize myself with all the details of configuring maps properly so that they look great on various sized monitors, trying to optimize content to display quickly and ensuring that all embedded apps worked properly and that content was shared publicly.

The last step in this long process was to add any custom icons, looping videos, and of course cheesy clever puns wherever possible.

I must say this was a pretty rewarding experience overall besides placing in the competition. This competition taught me a lot about how to build a professional public facing app, I learned a little bit about journalism, and a lot about patience (ie not loosing my mind when arcgis online didn’t work the way I wanted it to).

Visit the official Esri Global Content Challenge website, where you will find my app as well as other winners, many of which are my fellow classmates!